21 Most Common Tourist Scams in Spain

Safety at Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Seville, Malaga, Corralejo, Marbella, Valencia, Mallorca, San Sebastian, Majorca, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Minorca, Alicane, Benidorm, Denia, Zaragoza, Javea, Nerja, Fuengirola, Bilbao, Calpe, Benalmadena, Cordoba, Estepona, Torremolinos

Barcelona, Parc Guell

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With superb food, world-famous folklore, impressive monuments, magnificent churches, medieval towns, beautiful beaches, colourful festivals and many more, what’s not to like about Spain?

However, Spain is also home to the pickpocket capital of Europe that is Barcelona and scammers ready to part your valuables from you.

The problem here, is that any theft involving a value of less than €400 is treated as a misdemeanour with a paltry €50 fine and not as a crime. Within hours of being caught, the thief will be back onto the streets.

However, do not let that spoil your trip, as some preparatory work and staying alert will keep you safe and sound. Read on to learn how to protect yourself here!




1. Street pickpockets

Tourists are a natural magnet for pickpockets. Tourist spots which these pickpockets hang out at include:

  • Madrid:
    • Plazas / Squares / Streets: Plaza de Santa Ana, Puerta del Sol, Gran Vía, Paseo del Prado
    • Markets: El Rastro, Mercado de San Miguel
    • Attractions: Prado museum, Palacio Real
    • Metros, hotels, nightclubs: discussed later in the article


  • Barcelona:
    • Plazas / Squares / Streets: La Rambla, Plaza de Catalunya, Barrio Gotico, El Raval, Carrer Montcada, Carrer de la Princesa, Mercat Santa Caterina
    • Markets: La Boqueria,
    • Attractions: Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, etc

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelery / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround him or her and then work like this:

  • One will keep a lookout and block passer-bys from seeing the scene
  • Another will push or distract the target (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it),
  • A third will steal your valuable / slash your bag and then passes it on
  • The last will hide the loot under a jacket / items and then escapes with it

Do watch out for child pickpockets as well, and avoid hanging around watching the human statues or street performers at La Rambla for instance.

Rule of thumb:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done in a crowded environment.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

This is because once you are targeted, you will almost definitely lose your valuables in a split second.

Only carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.

As for your valuables / emergency cash, conceal them securely in a money belt or hidden pouch and in a sturdy anti-theft bag that is slash resistant, lockable, and difficult to unzip by others. Keep your bag in front of you.

However, do keep most of your valuables and passport in the hotel safe. Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead.

If you would like, you can use hotel safety tools such as a hotel safe lock or door jammer to strengthen the security of your hotel room.


2. Snatch thefts

There are many variations of snatch thefts, depending on where it occurs.

The first is that of a simple snatch of your phone / jewelry from behind you, and then running into a getaway car to escape.

The second happens at restaurants, where victims are usually in a relaxed state and distracted in conversation.

A bag, wallet / purse or camera slung around the chair, or left on an adjacent seat are super easy pickings for thieves. The either steal it stealthily, or do a distract and grab.

The third favourite spot for thieves are at hotels. This is because you will be carrying all your valuables out and are usually distracted while handling the registration process.

A fourth spot is at the beach, especially the Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona, as shown in the video above.

Again, tourists are usually very relaxed in such areas, and might not always have their valuables in their line of sight especially if they head to the waters.

A fifth spot is at the areas around nightclubs, where “prostitute pickpockets” line the streets, pretending to proposition tourists by grabbing them but in reality, are trying to steal your valuables.

Rule of thumb:

Stay alert at crowded places, and even at seemingly safe places like at a restaurant or hotel.

Keep your valuables near you and always within your line of sight (e.g. at a restaurant, leave your bag on your lap).

Ideally, carry your valuables in a bag across your body with a cross body anti-theft bag, away from the road / windows of your car / bus.

Further, consider investing in a money belt or hidden pouch to conceal your valuables securely.

We also recommend using a cheap spare wallet that you would not mind losing. It may also deter thieves from targeting you.

Finally, do not carry items in your hands such as a mobile phone when walking by the road. Also, do not wear obvious jewelry which can be easily ripped off your body.


3. The dancing cartoon cutout scam

You might have noticed street sellers selling cartoon cutouts that dance / jump to music. They are actually worthless colour paper cutouts with string legs.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not due to the use of magnetic forcefield. Rather, it is simply the use of transparent wire attached to a wheel that make the cutouts dance.

Also, the street seller will pretend not to understand English and not answer any of your questions unless you are asking for the price.

Do check out the video above to see how it works.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid buying.


4. Flower pin scam

A woman pins a flower on you and demands money. You might think fine, since it is just one euro.

But when you open up your wallet, all your cash or wallet might just be snatched.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject and give the pin back.


5. The trilero street game scam

Common around Europe (e.g. UK, Germany, Hungary), this is also known as the pea game / shell game.

This is the game where you have to find a ball / pea / something under one of three cups. If you guess correctly, you double your money.

As you watch the game, it is painfully obvious which cup the ball is in and you see others winning effortlessly.

Now, someone beckons you to join, you join and you can be ready to lose all your money.

This is because before the last move of the cups, the scammer will slightly expose the cup which has the item, tempting you to choose that cup.

However, through a sleight of hand trick, he can actually quickly swap it with another cup.

Also, if you are not careful, you can be targeted by the onlookers who pickpocket you while simply watching.

The whole bunch of them are actually part of the same gang. One sets the game up, one plays the game and win to tempt others to join, three to five will act as onlookers, and one will look out for the police.

Rule of thumb:

Stay far away, you will never win.


6. The rosemary plant gift scam

This scam is perpetrated by gypsy women who go around giving out small rosemary plants.

Should you take it, they will grab your palm while receiving it and pretend to read it like a fortune teller.

Next moment, either your valuables are gone, or they would demand money from you if they did not manage to steal from you.

Rule of thumb:

Note that besides rosemary plants, anything can be used. So do not engage these scammers.

And as mentioned earlier, arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.


7. The football scam

Source credit

You might be approached by a few strangers who try to start a football game along the streets.

As Spain is famous for its football, you think it’s a normal thing to do. It may be fun, but your valuables will be stolen while you are playing.

Another variation is these scammers playing by themselves. When you walk pass, they dribble up to you and perform some tricks. While you are distracted, that’s when they steal from you.

Rule of thumb:

Stay far away from this set up.

And as mentioned earlier, arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.


8. Restaurant scam

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Avoid restaurants along La Rambla as they are infamous for serving overpriced crap.

Also, avoid restaurants without menus, or those with menus but without a price on it.

It has also been reported that some restaurants give out expired coupons on the street.

Rule of thumb:

Find out the reputable food establishments to eat at from a quick online research or check with your hotel staff.

Next, always check the menu if they have prices and if there is any fine print.

After your meal, check your bill thoroughly.

And if you were to use coupons, always double check before ordering that they are still valid.


9. Petition / survey scam

petition scam

At crowded tourist places and street, you will probably see this scam, like in France.

You will be asked to sign a petition in a language you do not understand. On the form, you will see several other signatures which are there to make it seem more credible.

The petition simply means that you agree to donate a certain amount to a charity (for the deaf and blind). So once you sign, a donation will be demanded.

Sometimes, the scammer’s accomplices might even steal from you while you are distracted, so stay away from them.

Besides petition, you might find some young faces asking if you can help with a school survey. The set-up is the same, once you are distracted, the accomplice will steal from you.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject and stay far away.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, do arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.



1. Bus and train pickpockets

Barcelona Metro

Pickpockets love to target the large, connecting metro stations as they can easily run off to other lines, as well as the lines where tourists frequent.

In Madrid, the Puerta del Sol and Nuevos Ministerios are two favourite metro stations which pickpockets strike at.

In Barcelona, be wary of metro lines L3 and L4, bus 24, the metro stations connecting to tourist attractions (Placa Catalunya, Placa Espania, Passeig de Gracia and Jaume I) and metro stations connecting to the airport (Sants, Franca, Estacio del Nord, Cercanias stations).

Their modus operandi is this: one person blocks at the door, the other steals from behind.

Some of them are also as nimble as acrobats. They are able to time it perfectly such that they can snatch your stuff and jump out when the doors are just about to close.

Other times, especially at escalators, they might trip you or bump into you. Next moment, your valuables are gone.

Sometimes, you might meet thieves who are more aggressive.

For instance, they block you at the train’s doors or at the escalator by pretending to tie their shoe laces, or they could pretend to drop something (phone, cigarette, etc).

An accomplice will then either steal your wallet or cut your your backpack from the back.

Rule of thumb:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done in a crowded environment.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

This is because once you are targeted, you will almost definitely lose your valuables in a split second.

Only carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.

As for your valuables / emergency cash, conceal them securely in a money belt or hidden pouch and in a sturdy anti-theft bag that is slash resistant, lockable, and difficult to unzip by others. Keep your bag in front of you.

However, do keep most of your valuables and passport in the hotel safe. Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead.

If you would like, you can use hotel safety tools such as a hotel safe lock or door jammer to strengthen the security of your hotel room.


2. The highway pirate scam

These “highway pirates” target foreign registered cars and hired cars. The AP-7 Autopista south of Barcelona is reportedly a favourite hot spot.

What they do is that they stop you and claim that you have damaged their cars.

Or they claim to have noticed something wrong with your car such as a punctured tire.

Note that the punctured tire could be real, as the scammers would have targeted your car earlier and slashed your tires already.

Do not stop, because if you come out of your car to check on it, these “helpful strangers” will grab any valuables you leave in the the car.

Another variation is where parking attendants attempt this scam when you park in a parking garage.

Note that most parking garages are unattended and you can pay via the machines there.

Rule of thumb:

Stay alert of your surroundings even while driving. Also do not leave valuables or items identifying yourself as a tourist lying about in the car.

If you choose to stop, only stop at places with lights and in full view of oncoming traffic. Lock all your doors and keep the keys securely in your possession.


3. The trojan horse scam

trojan horse scam

This is a much more recent scam. A thief hides in a luggage bag which is then deposited in the luggage storage area for long distance travel.

Once the coast is clear, the thief gets out and begin stealing valuables from surrounding bags.

Once he is satisfied, the thief hides in the luggage bag again but now with his loot.

Rule of thumb:

To prevent yourself from falling prey, first, use a hard shell luggage that is more difficult to break into one that uses zippers (a pen is all that is needed to open zippers).

Next, consider investing in an extra TSA lock, luggage strap or some cable ties to further secure your luggage.

Note that these do not secure your luggage 100%, but are just meant to deter the thief from targeting your luggage.

Third, do not leave your valuables in check in luggage or luggage that you store in the storage compartment while travelling.

Instead, store them in a money belt or hidden pouch and in a sturdy, lockable anti-theft bag that is slash resistant.


4. Overcharging taxis

Source credit

There have been cases where taxi drivers play with your unfamiliarity of the local currency.

For instance, you might have given him 50 euros, but he claims that you have only given him 5 euros.

Another kind of scam is where the taxi driver demands pre-payment. No matter how convincing he sounds, and he can sound very convincing, alarm bells should ring in your head.

This is an outright scam because halfway through the journey, he will stop, tell you that he cannot continue and return you a counterfeit bill.

Rule of thumb:

Count your bills out loud before handing them over.

Watch like a hawk how the driver handles the notes to ensure that he does use sleight of hand tricks to swap them.

Finally, never pay in full upfront.



1. Fake police scam

You can find different variations of the fake police scam everywhere around the world (e.g. Morocco, Malaysia, Poland).

In Spain, a man approaches you to ask for directions. You tell him, he thanks you and leaves.

Next, a fake police appears, claiming that the guy is known for spreading fake money and thus, they would have to check your money.

You give them your money and they will conveniently nick one or two bills without you realising it.

Another variation is that they claim that they guy is known for peddling drugs (it can be anything).

They want to check your bag and should you allow, they will just grab your bag and run off.

Also, be wary of fake police travelling in unmarked cars while you are driving.

Alarm bells should start sounding if they ask for your wallet / purse, as genuine police will only ask for documentation.

However, some fake police will ask to see your documentation and then request to bring you to a fake police station.

Rule of thumb:

Note that unless you are drunk or acting weird, police would not approach you. Also, they would NOT ask to check your wallet or purse.

If you are approached, ask for their badges and identification and don’t sign anything without a lawyer. Threaten to call the police hotline to verify their identification (number at the end of this article).

If they accuse you, state that you need to contact your embassy to get a lawyer. If they want to search your bag, reject by saying that you are not under arrest.

Insist you will only allow them to do so at a police station with a lawyer or someone from your embassy.

Remember also to never give up your passport if asked. Instead, show only a photocopy of your passport.

In such cases, it is also useful to have a cheap spare wallet with little cash inside for daily transactions, while the rest of your valuables are hidden securely in your money belt or hidden pouch.

This way, the scammers might simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash on you. Even if not, you can simply give up that wallet or the cash in it with minimal loss to yourself and save a ton of trouble.


2. Counterfeit bill switcheroo

You pass the cash to the waiter, he disappears and reappears again telling you that the note is counterfeit.

This basically means that you have to pay double, as he has swapped your real notes with fake ones plus you have to pay again.

Rule of thumb:

For larger bills, you can mark them with a pencil (though not always practical) or take a glance at the serial number of your bill when handing over.

Also, try to ensure that the bill is counted in your line of sight. Or simply move over to the cashier and watch him count your bills carefully.


3. Bird shit / spilled liquid / stain scam

This is similar to the one posted in Thailand and many other countries such as the US.

Someone will dump liquid / white stuff looks like bird poo, etc onto you.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bunch of people will appear to help you clean the stain. In the process, your valuables will  “cleaned off” as well.

Another variation is where no liquid is poured. The scammers will claim that your clothes have been stained and will help you clean up even if there are no visible stains.

Rule of thumb:

Stand your ground and push whoever tries to help away.

And as mentioned earlier, arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.


4. Map / asking for directions scam

map scam

The scammer, usually well dressed to look like a tourist, will approach you to ask for directions.

He opens out a map over your valuables should they be laid out in the open, and grabs them together with the map.

This can happen at outdoor cafes or even inside restaurants where you might have left your valuables on the table.

Note that this map scam can be perpetrated in other ways as well!

While you walk across crowded streets, you find yourself “ganged” by a group of people trying to sell you a map of the city. The map opens up and poof..

Rule of thumb:

Do not leave your valuables exposed in the open.

When someone approaches you with a map, raise your guard immediately.

Also, keep most of your valuables locked up in your hotel’s safe. Carry around a photocopy of your passport / ID instead of the real thing.

And as mentioned earlier, arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.


5. Sob story / fake beggar

spain beggar

The sob story beggar claims that he / she has been robbed and has no money for food or transport.

Another kind of fake beggar is more scheming. Normally perpetuated by a gypsy, she will sit harmlessly on the ground holding a cardboard sign asking for donations with an accomplice nearby.

Should you donate, the accomplice will now know where you keep your wallet and will wait until the right opportunity to steal from you arises.

Rule of thumb:

Stay away.


6. The baby scam

This is a scam that can also be found in Italy and one that catches people by surprise.

A person holding a baby might just thrust the baby into your arms. You know what happens next.

While you are distracted catching the baby, the scammer’s accomplice will steal from you.

Rule of thumb:

Stay alert and quickly push whoever comes near to you away.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, do arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.


7. Bar scam

If you were to visit as a single male tourist, you might find a young woman who sit next to you and ask for a drink.

Halfway through though, she will excuse herself to go to the toilet. At the end, you will be hit with an overpriced bill.

Rule of thumb:

Always check the menu prices and any fine print properly. Reject such advances as well.


8. ATM Scam

Source credit

This scam happens everywhere in the world (e.g. BrazilCanada).

Skimmers are little devices attached to the card slot of ATM machines. They can be really difficult to spot.

Also, take note to cover your pin while typing it in, because there might have been cameras set up to capture your PIN and a card read to swipe your card.

There have also been reports where a scammer can distract you by tapping you as are withdrawing money to claim that you have dropped a $10 note behind you.

Most people would turn, and at this point, an accomplice will appear out of nowhere to steal your card or cash.

And if you haven’t realize, scammer #1 would have already seen and memorized your PIN if you hadn’t bother to cover it up.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only those in controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area as well for any suspicious looking characters.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet. That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.



1. Emergency numbers to call

spain police

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  • Emergency: 112
  • Ambulance / health: 061 or 112
  • Fire: 080 or 112
  • Local police: 092
  • Tourist helpline: 902 102 112

Connect with us!

Get protected!


  1. Marc

    Wonderful tips especially if you go to Spain.I didn’t know that Spain got this bad with Scams. Its really good to know those tips which probably helps some tourists to travel with stress free. Thanks

    • Jimmy

      I got scammed by a Spanish prostitute who approached me while on foot walking around. She offered sex, but when I refused, she put her arms around me and poof, as quick as lighting she took my necklace off and I didn’t even know it was gone until later.

      • Admin

        Thanks for sharing Jimmy! But damn, sorry to hear that.. Hope karma makes up for it some way or another for you!

      • Ruben

        They do this as well by grabbing you testicles and then snatch your phone.

    • Menno

      Wherever there are Gypsies, there is theft. It got worse when Romania entered the Schengen zone, it opened the field to the whole of the EU adhering to the zone.

  2. brain

    Another scam that they use at the airport is that they will hold you to the side, and then put you in a cab where they tell you that they’re not going to turn on the taxi meter, then overcharge you on a very short fair. The guys who separate people between taxies are complicit with this too.

    • Admin

      thanks for sharing!

    • Ilse Wouters

      Hello. I live in Spain and would like to specify something about this “scam” : in a lot of airports of Spain (Barcelona was the first to put this in place, followed by Madrid, Alicante…)there is a “minimum tariff” for taxi rides from the airport (really meant to discourage leaving your car at a short distance outside the airport parking zone, or minimising the “impact” of short rides for the taxi driver – who needs to queue a long time to get a ride and when it´s a short one paid little “looses” money), which means that short rides have become very expensive. Anyway, all official taxis in Spain have a taxi meter and you should always demand them to use it, even if the tariff later on doesn´t apply!

  3. Spock

    My friend and I experienced the bird shit scam last night. They work in groups! Great thing, they were not able to “help” us since my friend helped me clean the stuff from my back. They work in groups (in our case, we think there are three of them). So if something like this happens, just go on walking and moving do not worry about having some dirt on your clothes.

    • Admin

      Thanks for sharing Spock! lucky u 🙂

    • jacqueline boyd

      This happened to my husband and I in Seville. A green parakeet flew into a tree in a park and we had green liquid squirted on us. They helped clean it off with tissue and wet wipes. They seemed quite respectable people in their late forties. On returning to our cruise ship my husbands camera had been taken and 50 euros from his front pocket. We are in our seventies and feel they are evil scum. Fortunately I had my bag across my shoulders and if other people hadn’t been walking nearby I feel it could have been a lot worse. We were quite traumatised by the whole experience. I wish I had read your comments before we went on holiday. I think it would have been helpful if Tui our cruise agent could have warned us before we left.

  4. Mary Simons

    Hello, Everyone, I have travel around the Spanish Coast, I been in Almeria, there is such honest people! you don’t see these scams, I saw some of these in Barcelona, Alicante, Granada, and in Malaga; In Malaga, we went into a place that have a menu, we order 2 paellas and 2 drinks from the menu, the brought bread as usual, when we asked for the bill, I saw they charge for 5 items, I asked the waitress why they charged and she said that was for the bread, that we never order, and we though was complimentary, also there be careful with the taxis, the manipulate the taximeter, ask a fare before you take it. (they tend to change if they notice that you are tourist).

    • Admin

      Thanks for sharing Mary! Didn’t know that some cab drivers even manipulate the taximeter, thought it would be a more prevalent practice in Asia. As for the charging of bread, it is a pretty grey area in Europe, some places charge for it while others provide it free, probably good to ask at the start of a meal 🙂

    • Ilse Wouters

      Hello. I live in Spain and have travelled in many countries. I admit there is the “bread trick”, but normally it will say on the menu that a “cover charge” is charged per person for bread and a small aperitive (sometimes also includes olive oil, or “chupito” of degustive at the end of the meal). I don´t consider it a “scam” though. Likewise for the menu cards indicating the official tax rate of 10% is not included : it´s not very user friendly, but I guess that loads of restaurants ended up printing their menu cards that way when in a short period the tax rates were raised twice as to avoid having them reprinted again when another change would arrive. What might be a scam is when the waiter is telling you that you should leave a tip. I have witnessed it in Barcelona when having dinner with (foreign) friends and when my (Spanish) husband made a comment about it, the waiter of course couldn´t continue with his “trick” trying to get more money.
      Concerning the taxis : if you take an official taxi in Spain, you´ll always have a taxi meter and – normally indicated on stickers on the windows, in Spanish and in English – the official tariffs and the different zones and the extras. It´s easy to check whether the tariff is applied correctly. If you really feel the driver charges you more for being a tourist (which I really doubt), ask for his/her details and a complaint form. If you absolutely want to make sure no problem can occur, order your taxi through radio taxi, but be prepared to pay the extra for the taxi getting to where you want it to be.

  5. Bill

    We were sitting at an outdoor table having coffee. A guy acting as a mute was showing us a piece of paper with scribbles all over it and just pointing at it. he then left. That’s when we realized he lifted the cell phone from the table while it was blocked from our view behind the piece of paper.

    • Admin

      Thanks for sharing Bill! Quite a common scam this, could be anything such as a map or newspaper as well so do be wary.

  6. David nicholls

    While visiting a restaurant at the beach at St pedro alcantara yesterday the rear window of our hire car was smashed with a stone but not entered. A scruffy man in a high viz jacket greeted us and said if we had payed him this would not have happened.are the police aware of this and does anybody care.

  7. Bothered and Bewildered

    We returned from 5 nights in Barcelona yesterday, which was New Year’s Eve 2016. We have visited many cities in Europe and other continents, and so are fairly “streetwise”, but how I wish I had read about scams before going to Barcelona!!

    If you are visiting Spain you might like to search (Barcelona + scams) before travelling, or try this link:

    Very near La Diagonal at CARRER de MALLORCA number 334, we were turned over in such a clever way I want everyone to know about it. Apparently it is common enough to be known charmingly as the PIGEON POO SCAM.

    It was lunch time, fairly quiet and we had been highlighting our tourist status by taking photos and looking at the map. DO NOT DO THIS in Barcelona!

    Suddenly we found ourselves covered in a white liquid that we originally thought must have been a very large bird, or something thrown at us from a balcony, yogurt perhaps? Splattered all down our backs, and on my husband’s face, neck and hair.

    A well dressed man who had seemed to be locking an apartment block door came running over saying “let me help you, I will clean you”. He took us into the flats and up the stairs, where I remarked how dark it was!! Then he started handing us tissues and pouring water on them. Despite being shaken I did begin to wonder why he took us up so many floors if he wasn’t actually taking us to running water? While he was swabbing at the stains my husband realised this man was trying to get his wallet and warned me to be careful when the thief came to “help” me. I realise now he searched for a necklace, but he wasn’t very slick as he missed my gold earrings. Next he started working my bag around to my back and I thought, but that can’t be stained, it was UNDER my jacket. I spun around and checked inside my bag, hearing myself say, so politely, “excuse me I think you might have taken my purse?” He indicated it was on the doorstep beside me and started to dash away down the stairs.

    I’m certain he was seconds away from lifting our passports and cards, which were (deliberately,) in a separate zipped compartment with some paper money, both Sterling and Euros. He must have been annoyed as my phone was in yet another zipped compartment, and my camera attached to my wrist.

    Very shocked and shaken we found a police station to report the incident. A young officer was kind and attentive, but also clear…. this happens ALL THE TIME in Barcelona. It is the worst city in Europe for thieving and scams he told me, with what might have been some pride?? “Nothing taken so no real harm done, enjoy your days.”

    Thankfully we only lost our pride and confidence, and we have learned from the experience!
    Barcelona is an interesting and vibrant city. It is also smelly, dirty, and plastered in graffiti, which often says “Tourists GO HOME”.

    We will not be visiting Barcelona again.sad

    • Retired

      Just got back from Barcelona and was also a victim of the pigeon poo scam on Carrer de Mallorca nearly the same place. Amazing that they can’t post any police in that area. Lost my credit cards and didn’t realize it until two days later and $6,000.
      The city was interesting and exciting up to this point and now I only have regretful regards to people whom choose to visit this smelly, rude, dog-shitting everywhere city!

      • Jeannie


  8. Joanna

    Same here, been scammed in taxi, he just clicks and adds 10 euros keeps talking Spanish to, us, another scam is in one of them 24h supermarkets, last item is always very expensive and he claims there is no bar code on this item, that way we’ve paid 4 Euro for 4 small cans of sprite!!!! Very bad for European country!!!!!!!!!

  9. nina

    thank you for the article 🙂
    could you do an article how to avoid the scams too ?
    also places where in barcelone/madrid with less scams
    please 🙂

  10. Elena

    I spent five glorious weeks in Madrid and three weeks in Barcelona and ALMOST encountered some of the above mentioned scams. Fortunately, I read about the same scams (and more) ahead of time, so I was prepared by wearing my money belt EVERY SINGLE DAY and never had anything stolen. Always kept my purse in my lap at restaurants. I was so lucky to have been warned via numerous newsfeeds from so many other travelers that I learned from other people’s mistakes and felt prepared to enjoy my time while taking precautions.

  11. Tom

    It was around 6:30 am in the el born section. Me and 3 of my children were waiting with bags for my wife and daughter to come meet us . A woman, in English , started screaming in an alley that her purse was just stolen and her passport was gone and “help me, help me”. She wasn’t in any physical harm, so I wasn’t going to go help her. Anyway, I thought it was legit . It may very well have been. Later I was told by some folks that this is a common scam – meant to separate me from my bags. And I thought I read every scam out there. This one should be included. Helping someone that is a victim of a scam, may be a scam itself . Avoid them, they can go to the police, or, at least be vigilant if you do decide to help

  12. Craig Nz

    My lovely wife and I were in Córdoba having a great time but Gypsies managed to split us both and with two different plants we’re trying to read our palms… then asking for money!! Coins were not enough ! I was stronge enough to move on but by the time I was able to get to my wife much more had been taken! With 5 to 6 woman standing around her she felt handing the money over was the only way out!! Just be strong and from the start tell them to “F” off ! A Big Loud NO! Will do!!

  13. Moises Romo

    I just got hit by the fake police (working with the real police) in Madrid (Lavapies area). I was minding my own, walking down a less busy street. And a group of guys in their early 20s surrounded me saying that they’re police and they need to verify my identity. They were wearing colored shorts, t-shirts and regular street clothes. They showed me their badges and id’s. They wouldn’t let me go. One of them had a gun. I called the police a few times. Got hung up on by the impatient operator. I was calling help from passersbys but they didn’t want to be involved. I called the hostel that I was staying at and I think that must have made them decide not to rob me. I finally showed them my drivers license and they kept questioning same lame questions over and over. Then the police came. They opened up the back door and had me empty out my pockets. They ran through my wallet in front of me. I thought for sure I was leaving empty handed. I didn’t have my passport on me. I think the facts that I didn’t offer any bribe, started making phone calls, expressed distrust and prayed eventually they gave me everything and let me off. No money was missing. They had arrested a young black guy for apparently no reason and took him away. Unfortunately, I think they saw him as easier prey. He was just crying saying he didn’t do anything and didn’t need to be arrested. I’m sure he’s right.

    • Moises Romo

      By the way, it was 7:30 and still light out when this happened.

  14. Richard

    I nearly had my wallet and passport taken from a bumbag in Malaga last weekend. Three pickpockets working together. One young tall man and two stocky women. As I walked across the Puente Misericordia towards the central station he walked alongside me. When he didn’t pass I speeded up, and so did he. I then slowed down and it was then I felt hands on the zips of my bag. I shouted pick pockets and they made off. It was a very close call.

  15. Erica

    Daughter is studying abroad in Madrid. This week she has had both her credit card number stolen AND her phone lifted out of her small zipped cross body purse. Articles like this are great and remind all to be aware of your surroundings and not niave. Wish I had read this BEFORE all this happened to her.

  16. Bella

    Went to Madrid, Spain and Andalucia region, as well as Lisbon, Portugal. First night in Madrid the lobby of the hostel which was extremely hard to find in Sol was a haven for a trench coated pick up artist. He stashed all the stuff he stole inside of a plastic bin . I had to block him from entering because it was dark with no lighting in the lobby. My next experience was nearly getting pick-pocketed several times in the streets, airport and inside of the subway. The subway experience was the worst – a nigerian girl talked loudly in a bunch of nonsense with her guy standing behind her. Right before the distracting noises she put her hands into my pockets quickly and nothing. Stayed behind me in a lineup for getting subway tickets and wouldn’t let up. So I started yelling at them. They got startled and kept at it. I moved to another empty subway ticket booth and they left. The airport was horrendous. I stayed awake all night to protect my luggage. I saw a trench coat guy (from Cyprus? from somewhere middle eastern or eastern european is my guess with very fine bone structure and narrow faces light skinned and black straight fine hair). ONe had a slash across his face. Approached by one of them outside who asked for a smoke adn then asked where my accent was from – irssh? NOPE, big mistake beacuse he later approached me at the terminal booth with the airline lady looking on and tried to steal my passport in front of me. My reflexes were faster. One guy simultaneously (american or canadian white) was screaming and runnig after the other pickpocket. I screamed and yelled. The police were literally 25 steps away. They laughed. Pretending to walk around and look for the thieves and got back to donuts and coffee literally. I asked why they are so calm and don’t care. They said that the thief will be out of jail in the morning and back at the madrid airport doing the same thing over again – lost cause. I was so exhausted and angry. I literally stayed awake all night thinking my stuff would get stolen but no, my passport was also risky. When I got to Lisbon I breathed a sigh of relief! I only got approached by some young guys who somehow knew I was a tourist (no camera or backpack just a coat) and offered to sell me some weed I think? I got a bit scared. In another part (Seville) Spain I was surrounded by young guys trying to rush me because I walked with a blonde german from the hostel who was showing me around. They did that to her every other night.

  17. Simon

    Thanks for all this great info.
    I’ve travelled in many countries and am very streetwise. Though while in Barcelona my partner and I were at an outdoor street restaurant near La Sagrada Familia at 10pm. Totally empty street and a few folk at other tables. I had my shoulder bag at my feet and usually would have had it on my lap or tied to the chair – but as the street was completely empty and I’d see anyone approaching it seemed unnecessary. Our drinks arrived and the two Spainish waiters slammed them down on the table and roughly rearranged the menus and other stuff on the table to distract us. Moments later I realised my bag was gone. At the time I didn’t suspect the waiters as it seemed too risky an act for them to pull off, though in hindsight it was obvious it had to be them. My wallet was in the bag along with a few other personal items and the cards were tried at an atm within minutes – but they tried to take out 500€ and the banks froze the cards in response. I challenged the waiters and owner the next night and it was obviously them but they had the upper hand in numbers and aggression/violent nature and I valued keeping my teeth.
    So it’s not just the Eastern Europeans as you suggest in your film who are at it. Spainish waiters in good restaurants with trip advisor reputation are also helping themselves.

    • Pradeeban Kathiravelu

      Never trust a TripAdvisor rating. They can easily be faked. I know many restaurants who have fake 5* reviews with fake accounts. They are easy to spot.


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